CHARLESTON, W.Va. - To avoid lengthy rides to school and costly building repairs, officials from Gilmer and Lewis counties want to create an inter-county elementary school.
If funding for the plan is approved, the school would be the only one of its kind in West Virginia, Gilmer Superintendent Ron Blankenship said.
"It's very exciting," Blankenship said. "It's a great opportunity for students in both counties."
According to the plan submitted to the state School Building Authority, Gilmer County would consolidate Troy Elementary School with Lewis County's Alum Bridge Elementary School at the new building, tentatively plotted in the border community of Linn.
The plan anticipates more than $500,000 in annual savings and more than $500,000 in avoided costs for the counties.
Each school caters to about 100 students, but the new school would house 240 children, Blankenship said. Troy serves students in pre-kindergarten programs through sixth grade, while Alum Bridge only serves students up to the fourth grade, Blankenship said. Lewis County officials have agreed to send students through the sixth grade to the new school.
Both schools received "poor" ratings from the authority staff for different parts of their facilities. Problems included site access, parking, restrooms and food service facilities.
The report said Troy "is in very deplorable condition and has been cited for several health and safety violations."
A new school will let each county affordably provide a better learning opportunity for students, Blankenship said. It will also cut down on transportation times for children who live far away from school, he said.
"Parents should be able to send their children to the closest school," Blankenship said.
Although a combined school will lead to some duplication of duties, Blankenship expects few jobs to be lost. Teachers at Troy are already forced to teach several different grade levels, so the new school could allow them to focus on one particular group, he said.
The actual employees who are retained for the school is up to the state Board of Education, Blankenship said. Each county must submit a list to the board with the names of current employees who would like a position at the new school. New positions will be filled from the list before the board looks elsewhere.
A location hasn't been chosen yet, Blankenship said. The counties have agreed to split the cost.
The state took over operations of the Gilmer County school system in June 2010. In the wake of that decision, a group calling itself the Gilmer County Education Coalition organized to "restore credibility" to the school system, spokesman William Simmons said.